The holidays are a few days away, but despite all the fun we may want to have, we can’t forget that COVID-19 is still a major health crisis in America. No one wants to start 2021 in bed sick or making one of their loves ones ill. These tips on how to have a safe and healthy holiday are our gift to you.Keep gatherings smallCOVID cases surged in America after Thanksgiving, with the number of new cases up 20 percent and hospitalizations up even more. This is due primarily to large gatherings and increased travel.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend having small meals with the people who live in your household only, and using Zoom, Skype, or something similar to get together virtually with people who live far away. While there is no specific limit on in-person gatherings, the size of your celebration should be based on the ability for everyone to stay six feet apart and to follow other safety measures.Outdoor activities are a moderate risk, but are still safer than large indoor gatherings.Keep gatherings short and sweetThe less time you’re around others, the less chance you have of catching the virus. Being within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requiring quarantine.Keep your mask on and keep cleanDon’t hug your relatives, even if you haven’t seen them all year. Don’t kiss them on the cheek, either. Wearing your masks and keeping six feet apart is the best way to keep everyone healthy. And remember to regularly wash your hands and practice other sanitary precautions.Stay safe ahead of timeHave you been wearing your mask and practicing social distancing this month? If so, good. Keeping you and your family safe is more than just practicing good behaviors when you see them. Even if you don’t show any symptoms now, you can still be contagious for 14 days after exposure to the virus. If you’re not sure you’ve been completely safe, stay home.Should I travel?Traveling is a high-risk source of spreading COVID-19. Check to see how prevalent COVID-19 is at your destination. Don’t travel if you’re sick or if you’ve been around someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days. If you must travel, wear a mask at all times you are on public transportation, maintain social distancing as much as possible, and carry sanitizer with you.Driving is a much safer option than flying. If you are driving, pack your own food so you don’t have to purchase food at restaurants. If you can’t, make sure to only get drive-thru or curbside delivery. Use disinfecting wipes on gas pumps and sanitize your hands when complete. Wash your hands thoroughly whenever you use public restrooms.If you travel, self-monitor for COVID symptoms for 14 days upon return, continue practicing hand hygiene, and wear a face covering when social distancing is not possible.Think about othersHospital capacities are at the breaking point, and the CDC predicts daily COVID deaths to exceed the lives lost at Pearl Harbor or on Sept. 11, 2001. Doing everything you can to prevent the spread of this disease and possibly save the lives of your loved ones is far and away the greatest gift you can give this year.This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. You can now schedule an appointment online with one of our 150 providers in nearly 20 locations across North and South Carolina. You can also schedule through myCEENTAchart or by calling 704-295-3000.